shannon_a: (Default)
Last Saturday I managed a hiking trip that I've been wanting to do for a while: I explored Sibley Park.

It's a tricky trip because there's no particular good transport up to Sibley. I've been through the park any number of times, but it was always on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. I knew that if I hiked up there, explored for a few hours, then hiked back, it would be a pretty busy and tiring day (and it was).

I hiked in from the north and cut over to the Quarry Road, a pedestrian-only paved road that's all but invisible on the Sibley maps. From there my initial goal was the Ponds Trail. I always love lakes up and ponds up in the wilderness, and these were decent-sized ones, so I looked forward to them.

Except they were perhaps the most disappointing ponds I've ever seen. Oh, I've seen brackish ponds and little mud pools. But these were entirely filled with reeds. You pretty much couldn't see the water at all. The high point was actually passing by a dozen cows partly blocking the path. I don't usually pass that near by the cows out in the local parks, but I was cautious, and they seemed pretty casual.

There was a picnic table out by the ponds, and I did stop to write there. There was a bit more foliage than I like, so I carefully looked around for snakes before sitting down. Then I wrote an article, listened to the incessant hum of highway 24, which I'd been hearing for the last hour or more, and didn't look at the pond. On the way out I passed by the cows again, and then found the long black snake I'd been looking for over at the picnic table, blocking my path. I stared at it for a while. It refused to move. I thought, this is a really stupid snake that doesn't move off a path that cows tromp around. I stared at it for a bit more then carefully edged around behind it. It never moved.

(Stupid snake.)

After that I headed toward the back of the park. There were lots of high-looking hills there, and I was eager to ascend them. Eventually I ended up on the Volcanic Trail, and finally I got to see signs of the ancient volcano there at Sibley.

Most of the sign is basalt rocks that have been thrown here and there, plus some very red tufts. They were actually pretty cool to see, and I'd thrown my Sibley map in my backpack, and it had all the info on the 11 major, marked volcanic locales in the park.

Two of them were actually old quarries, where people dug out the volcanic rocks. One was just a little cul de sac, but the other was a larger area ... which turned out to actually be the original interior of the Round Top volcano. Cool!

Kimberly had once told me she remembered Sibley as being pretty barren, and I now see that it was the back of the park the she was talking about. But I soon circled back to to the more forested areas near the front, and then there was a refilling of water bottle at the staging area, then a mile or so walk down a road, until I could drop down into Merriewood, and from there cross back across 24, which put me onto Old Tunnel Road and eventually down into Berkeley.

Fitbit says I walked 16.5 miles, which is one of my best days ever (but I didn't quite repeat my 40,000 step day that I managed on my free day in New York last year). My feet were hurting by the time I got home. But it was a nice exploration of Sibley.
shannon_a: (Default)
One of the super-cool things about the hills behind the East Bay is that there are near continuous parks throughout them. More notably, there's a ridgeline trail which runs across them. You can literally walk from San Pablo to Castro Valley and never step off a trail except to cross the very rare street. This has long intrigued me, though it's actually an overly long distance to walk in a day.

(The Bay Area Ridge Trail actually is supposed to circle the whole bay. Heck it even goes through Ed Levin Park and Alum Rock Park, two of my stomping grounds when I was growing up in the South Bay. But it's not all complete, nor is all of it as continuous as in the hills that are just above Berkeley.)

I've walked a good range of the trails above our local area. In various segments I've walked as far south as Sibley Park and as far north as Tilden and down to the San Pablo Dam Reservoir. (Mysteriously, the ridgeline trail doesn't continue along the ridgeline to Wildcat Canyon Park.)

But Saturday I decided to make my biggest effort ever, by walking from my house, up Panoramic Hill, and above that to the Ridgeline Trail, then walking it south into Sibley, then into Huckleberry, then into Redwood Regional Park, then down to the Chabot Space & Science Center.

That final destination was chosen because it was one of the rare places up near the ridgeline where I could catch a bus back to BART.

So Saturday I was out of the house by 10 am, and it was off to the races.

The walk was glorious.

The trek up the hill was hard because I took it fast, but it got me to the ridgeline trail before 11.30. It was one of the time I was panting and breathing hard.

As usual, I had to hop a gate at the top of the hill, because EBMUD sucks and purposefully blocks access to the ridgeline trail from the fire trails that exit above Strawberry Canyon, just across the street.

The walk from the so-called Scotts Peak Trailhead to Fish Ranch Road was glorious. I love the sweeping views of eastern CoCoCo, and then you slide back to the other side of the hills. There's some close grass there that I was a little nervous about because the rains have led to a snake season. And I heard some buzzing just off the trail in some of that thick grass that made me very nervous, but I quickly moved through. And enjoyed the great views.

The walk from Fish Ranch Road to Old Tunnel Road was beautiful too. I love the heavily forested paths.

In Sibley now. The walk from Old Tunnel Road to the Sibley Staging Area was trying. It was more uphill than I remembered, and some of the path was deeply cut by running water. Still, the area remained so gorgeous.

At 12.30 I had lunch at Sibley, then wrote for a while, then fixed an issue at RPGnet, then finished my article. At 1.30 I headed on.

Following the Ridgeline Trail brought me further back into Sibley than I usually go. More forested trails. I really need to explore the rest of the park sometime. Is there really a volcano back there?

There's no sign when you cross into Huckleberry, but suddenly there's a huge valley spread out before you. You cut down into the valley, cross the stream at the bottom of it twice, then start moving back up. It was gorgeous too.

Except that heading back up revealed my one problem of the day. A .11 section of trail was marked closed until made safe. (Which usually means a 1-10 year delay in East Bay parks.) There was absolutely no other way to get through Huckleberry, from Sibley, so I decided to hike up to see if the problem was something I found safe enough or too dangerous. The answer was a big landslide below the trail. I'd actually seen it from below as I walked up the creek, before cutting back, and had been awed by it. Here it just kissed the edge of the trail and I tested the ground and found it totally firm. So I continued along, staying well away from the edge. No problem. Curiously, there was no such trail-closure sign at the top.

(And that's a trail that really needs to be fixed, as it's the only way to get through that part of the ridgeline trail. For want of a .11 trail segment, a ridgeline trail was lost.)

Huckleberry and Redwood Regional don't quite touch. But, much as in the area between Fish Ranch and Tunnel Road, there's a segment of trail through the land in between to keep you walking in beauty.

I took my other break for the day just outside of Redwood Regional, where I was pleased to see a bench. Four squares of chocolate and one issue of a comic book.

Then it was over a small ridge and into Redwood Regional, where I circled around the East Ridge Trail and the West Ridge Trail until I got to Chabot Space & Science Lab. I think of that as the main commuter trail that gets you to the interesting parts of Redwood Regional, but it's actually attractive too, looking over another big basin, this one facing south.

While in Redwood Regional, I checked Google Maps to see how much longer it would take to continue on to Castro Valley BART. Four and a half hours. Huh.

As I neared Chabot, I realized that I was going to just miss the 4pm bus, by a minute or so. So, I picked up my pace and got there at 3.59. This was the other time I was panting and breathing hard. No bus. No bus at 4. No Bus at 4.01. I finally decided that AC Transit was playing their usual game of randomly skipping a bus every once in a while. The bus arrived at 4.07.

Then it was down to Fruitvale BART. (On the bottom five of my list of BART stations.) Then it was six(!) stops home. Yep, I walked six BART stops along the ridgeline!

Total walk, 6 hours (minus an hour for lunch). So, five hours or so for reals. 13 or 14 miles. Exactly 300 flights of stairs when I got home. Hours of beauty.

A great day.

And nice to see other people frequently using and enjoying the trails. I saw people on every major segment, and quite a few people when I passed by some of the staging areas, at Old Tunnel Road, at Sibley, in Huckleberry, and in Redwood Regional. (The last is clearly the most popular, but it's also the biggest.)

I'm a little sore today, primarily my legs (from walking) and my back (from carrying my backpack with computer for writing).

And I got home from my day of walking in beauty to discover more horror in London, as another terror attack seems intended to push the British people to the conservative, Islamophobic platform in the upcoming snap election. Just as seemed to be the case in France several weeks ago. I don't even understand a world any more where terrorist groups theoretically fighting for Muslims (in horrible, misguided, evil ways) are purposefully supporting Islamophobes to in turn drive recruitment for the terror organizations. It's like the snake has eaten its tail and disappeared inside itself.

Condolences and support to my British friends, victims of terrorism and Theresa May.
shannon_a: (Default)
Monday night, I decided to bike up to Lake Temescal after work.

It was a very regular destination for me a couple of years ago, some place that I'd often visit on the weekends and in evenings, but it fell off my itinerary early last year when my doctor (pointlessly) asked me not to bike for a while.

So, I think I only went there once in 2016, when I hiked through it, up to Sibley Volcanic Regional Park. And I don't think that I've ever ridden my "new" bike up there.

My purpose was to go and see some new biking infrastructure. There's now a "cycle track" where Broadway takes the turn toward Temescal at Keith. This is a two-way protected bike path off to right side of the road (as you go uphill). I have to admit, I was confused by the usefulness of a cycle track that's just a block long, but it gets you around a tight corner and it gets you past the area where cars are merging onto 24. So, it's actually a nice bit of safe riding that gets you past the hurly-burly. (You still have to deal with cars merging off of 24 on Keith, but I've never had any particular problem with them.)

Past that one cycle track block there are now marked bike lanes all the way up to Temescal (and if Google Maps is to be believed, all the way up to the North Oakland Regional Sports Center). This is nice too, as I'd ridden that road many a time and found it slightly uncomfortable with the cars whizzing by on the previously unmarked road.

It's all about a year and a half late if I remember correctly which year this was promised (2015?), but definitely a nice addition to the local infrastructure.

Now if we could just get the promised improvements done to Tunnel Road, on the other side of 24. That's coming up on eight years late, and I can't even get Berkeley to update their two-year-out-of-date Highway 13 Corridor Improvements Project page despite two different polite requests.

One of the things that shocked me about the bike lanes up Upper Broadway is that they've totally replaced all on-street parking. Mind you, the on-street parking was totally irrelevant. It's only use was up by Lake Temescal, for people who refused to pay the parking fee in the big lot at the park. But the City apparently decided that it was more important for bikes to have a safe route on the street than for cars to have unnecessary parking ... which is really a sea change. (And something that needs to occur more often: roads are primarily for transit, not for parking, and if the two come into contention, transit needs to win.)

Of course, we'll see how that actually works out on a warm summer day. I'm actually thinking about heading back in this direction on Saturday, which should offer a prime look at whether it's yet another place where Oakland talks a good talk, but then doesn't enforce it when cars block the bike lanes. (Their regularly blocked "protected" bike lanes on Telegraph are the best example currently of Oakland's lacsadasical attitude toward enforcement.)

I was also surprised that the ride up to Lake Temescal was pretty easy. That used to be a hard hill. But maybe I was so focused on keeping pressure off my wounded knee that I didn't notice the huffing and puffing.

I was really pleased when I got up to Temescal. It was like seeing an old friend again. I hiked halfway around the lake, tossed my computer done and wrote and edited for a while, then hiked back to retrieve my bike.

The lake seemed more crowded than I remembered in evenings. Quite a few people out at picnic tables talking and eating and hanging. Much more than the handful of fishermen, joggers, and dog walkers that I used to see. Dunno if it marks a change in the last year and a half or just a busy evening.
shannon_a: (Default)
We were supposed to be roleplaying on Saturday, but somehow it fell through. It was honestly a bit frustrating, because we'd planned the date a month and a half ahead, when people were constantly scheduled in the interim. Then we'd replanned it weeks ahead, when we choose between two weekends. But still the gaming weekend arrived and there was cub scouts and new jobs and extra hours.

And no gaming.

So it goes in adulthood gaming.

And that's how I ended up crawling through a jungle.

I've gotten pretty adept at climbing the hills behind our house. This Saturday I did some writing up on the Clark Kerr campus in the early afternoon, then went for my Saturday hike. I took the Stonewall Panoramic Trail up to the West-East Trail, then took an unnamed Fire Trail up to Grizzly Peak Blvd and the Scotts Peak Trailhead.

The Scotts Peak Trailhead always baffles me because it's clearly labeled, but there's just a locked gate there, despite that being the only easy way to access the Skyline Trail from the Strawberry Creek fire trails.

Anywho, gates with horizontal bars up and down them do not deter me.

The Skyline Trail from Scotts Peak Trailhead to Fish Ranch Road was the first bit of new trail for me for the day. It's part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so I was excited to walk it. I don't expect I'll ever walk the whole thing, but I was nonetheless happy to fill in a gap.

I've definitely now walked it from Volmer Park in Tilden to the main entrance at Sibley. I've also biked it in Tilden from Inspiration Point to where it inexplicably leaves Nimitz Way to run down to San Pablo Dam, despite being a "ridgeline" trail. And, I may have walked some of it in Redwood Regional Park (though it appears to run along the west ridge, not the east ridge, so I haven't actually walked much of that). Oh, and I've seen trail markers while out in San Francisco. (I wish there were better maps of the whole thing, but the maps are all broken up into little sections, and they don't do a good job of showing the context of where they are.)

Anywho, the segment that I walked was very nice. A lot of it ran just east of the ridge, which meant I got great views of Orinda, Mount Diablo, and places in between (and often could pick out the path I walked to Orinda the other week). But there were also some sweeping views of the Bay. Much of it was across lands filled with high, dry grass. It's obviously heading toward fire season, but it was still attractive on Saturday (and a unique landscape).

Eventually I scrambled up a pseudo-path right next to Fish Ranch Road, to escape to my next destination.

The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is weird. The maps aren't consistent about what it contains, and neither Google nor Apple Maps shows any trails on the half of the Preserve south of Claremont Road, covering Telegraph Canyon and Gwin Canyon. But, when I hiked through Summit Pass (where Claremont, Fish Ranch, and Grizzly Peak meet) a few weeks ago, I discovered a big map and an entrance down into Telegraph Canyon.

So, I put that on my mental list of places to check out, and later when I got to a networked computer I discovered official Claremont maps showing some trails in that southern area ... though they weren't consistent either. Everyone agreed there was a north-south Gwin Canyon Trail running along the western side of the Preserve, but there was disagreement over whether there were trails running down the hillside.

But I was confident.

So on Saturday I walked by that map up at Summit Pass and started heading downward. And there were indeed trails — two of them, The Summit House Trail and the Willow Trail. They were a bit overgrown up by Summit Pass, but they got very cool as they entered the woods. There were trees looming all over, but also occasional clearings. I considered sitting down in one and writing on a tree log ... but decided it was getting late.

And these trails, they were beautifully curated. Whenever the path got too steep, wooden steps made the going easier. And as the trail cut back and forth across a creek there were simple wooden plank bridges.

I was totally loving it, considering it one of the best trails I'd found in the area.

There's a gate out to Claremont Road at the bottom of the Summit House Trail. I checked it out because I wanted to double-check I knew where I was. But my real goal was the Gwin Canyon Trail, which is the one that cuts across the bottom of the Preserve. I felt the need to check where I was because the Gwin Canyon Trail was unsigned ... which was a bit of a surprise, as the previous trails were extensively signed every time they met.

I grew more confident as I crossed another bridge over a creek. This one was even finished, showing that the people working in the Preserve were just upping the quality of their work.

But a bit past that the trail was suddenly covered in really fresh dirt. And a bit past that it was suddenly angling off the side of the hill, making walking along it tough and adventurous. I went out along that shaky dirt slope for a bit, but ultimately decided I must be doing something wrong.

Fortunately I remembered a path up off the side of the trail, just after the bridge, so I backtracked to that, and figured this must have been a side trail created after the avalanche or whatever.

So I took that for a while, and eventually it dropped back down to what I thought was the original trail, but if so it was pretty poorly upkept.

And soon after that I lost the trail.

And I backtracked and I lost the trail.

Again and again.

A few times I pushed through brush and bush that I figured must have overgrown the trail.

And after a bit of that, I was pretty much in the middle of forest with no trail to be seen.

Now I wasn't exactly lost in the wood. I could literally see Claremont Road much of the time, but it was across a creek, and going down and up its sides looked all but impossible.

I also had my cell phone. But the problem was that it didn't show the trails so even with GPS, I couldn't accurately figure out where I was in relationship to the supposed trail. I did have a PDF of the Claremont maps on my laptop, so a few times I cross-referenced the two, and I was staying close to where the trail should be (thanks to the creek and the hills making it easy to stay on course), but I couldn't find it.

Meanwhile I was crashed through the wilderness. There wasn't a lot of ground cover back in the woods, but it was a lot of work to crash through it because dead trees and branches kept getting in the way.

I was slowly making my way along where the path was supposed to be, but I do mean slow. I figured I'd eventually get back to the opposite side of the park where I could exit, but I really wasn't sure how long it would take.

(I called K. to let her know I'd be late for dinner because I was sorta' lost in the woods.)

Often when I'm out in the wilderness, I worry about (1) snakes; (2) poison oak; and (3) poison ivy in that order. But as I crashed further and further through foliage I got less and less worried about it all.

But there was still no trail to be found!

After about a quarter of a mile in about 45 minutes I came up with a new plan. I pulled up the altimeter app on my phone; since my maps of Claremont showed the height in 10 foot increments, I thought this might be a more accurate way to find the trail. It actually showed me within 10 feet or so height of the trail, but I finally decided it must be above me. So I crashed upward ...

And voila!

Slightly poorly upkept trail!

I walked the last half-mile or so much more quickly. I was surprised to find the last bit was considerably uphill, so I was quite tired when I exited the park. I'd expected that 1.11 mile traversal of the Gwin Canyon Trail to take about 20 minutes, but it had taken about an hour twenty.

I emerged in the rich hills far above the Claremont Hotel. On the way down I noticed a nice-looking Asian guy out getting his mail, and I asked him if he would be willing to get me some water. He immediately volunteered to get me a bottle, and I smiled and explained that I was just looking to get my water bottle refilled with tap water. He was happy to do so.

By the time I got home my Fitbit was reading over 30,000 steps and over 250 flights of stairs. Those were record highs for me, but beneath the next badge levels. The gamification systems won me over and I went for a walk after dinner to get me the 35,000 step badge and the 300 flight of stair badge.

I was then sore on Sunday.

I've since found some discussions of the Gwin Canyon Trail that claim it ends .6 miles from the far terminus that I was walking toward. This might explain what happened. I now suspect there's a .4 mile or so gap between that fresh dirt past the bridge and where the trail picks up.

If so, it'd be nice if they didn't mark the darned trail on the maps ... and maybe put up some warnings where it disappeared!

(But it looks like it's in process one way or another.)

And that was the Gwin Canyon Adventure.
shannon_a: (Default)
In late 2014, after much hemming and hawing, Oakland finally agreed to revamp 20 blocks of Telegraph Avenue to make it safer for biking. This was a pretty big deal because it's the main route into Oakland from the north — and the bottom 20 blocks where they were doing the work were in an area that is almost absent any really comfortable biking routes.

Now Telegraph Avenue is my regular route down to Endgame (or Jack London Square or Alameda or places south). I usually ride it at least once a week. I'd gotten pretty used to it over the years, but in early 2015 I looked at the street with new eyes and realized how crappy it really was for biking — full of fast cars, turning here and there. I began to count down the weeks until work was to begin in March 2015.

Now Oakland has been pretty good in recent years at extending biking routes. But they're really horrible at doing anything on a schedule. I was disappointed but unsurprised when March, then April went by with no progress. Then word came out that work was to be done in the summer, then that it was to be in September.

Come October, Oakland finally repaved the bottom 10 or so blocks of Telegraph. It was a horrible mess of unpaved roads for a couple of weeks, but then the paving was done and it seemed like the biking work was just around the corner. Then in November the city roughly painted in where all new embankments and such would go in the bottom 10 blocks. (Yes, they are currently ignoring the top 10 blocks they're supposed to be redoing; current word is late 2016, almost a year and a half late, which probably means 2017.)

I would have thought that Oakland couldn't make Telegraph worse, but they totally have. It's now been at least two months since the repaving and repainting. Telegraph now has roughly painted lines on it that everyone is ignoring because they don't match up with the construction of the road. (The new bike paths in that area will be protected, which means concrete [or something] dividers, and car parking getting moved out from the curb.) So instead we just have an auto derby with everyone going every which way, driving up what should be the shoulder, swaying right and left. It's insane.

And Oakland's been OK with that for two months.

So if I was looking forward to those lanes going in before, I really am now that they've totally f***ed things over for two months.
shannon_a: (Default)
Overheard on AC Transit:

"There's something wrong with Oakland, something wrong with it. You go to Berkeley or Emeryville, and everyone's smiling, but in Oakland, there's just this sadness. I don't know what it is, but there's something wrong with Oakland."

I think it's called poverty or maybe economic and social inequity.

But you're totally crazy anywhere, based on your constant monologue.

I had a cardiologist appointment today, but it was still raining fairly hard an hour out, so I decided I needed to take the bus. I hate doing so because AC Transit is so unreliable. I have to set out an hour early instead of 30 minutes early, because you never know when you might be waiting for 30 or 50 minutes because a few buses randomly disappeared off the schedule.

I got to the bus stop a few minutes after a 1R, the rapid transit bus, came by. Cursing my luck, I looked at the NextBus display; it said a 1 was coming in 4 minutes. No problem. I watched it count down. 3 minutes. 2. 1. Arriving Now. 19 minutes. 18 minutes. Yep, that's AC Transit.

The 1 did finally show up a few minutes later. By that time 4 or 5 people had congregated at the stop, two of them clearly crazy. The one who would later monologue throughout the trip was the worst. He jaywalked across Telegraph, pausing in the traffic here and there, then halted right where the bus would stop for a minute or two before he finally ascended the sidewalk. He then pushed his way into the bus shelter with his umbrella fully open like no one was there. Stinking of cigarettes.

So we're on the bus, headed south. About halfway down Telegraph we caught up to the 1R that we were 10 minutes or so behind. And then passed it. (It passed us back several blocks later, but still, we were neck and neck.)

The R I should note stands for "Rapid", as in "goes faster than the normal 1". Which apparently is not always the case, which is unsurprising to me. It's not the first time I've seen the slightly different lines cause chaotic results, as one bus runs ahead, starts picking up all the passengers, then gets loaded down, and so ends up running slower for the rest of the trip.

But the whole idea of running a normal and rapid line simultaneously has always seemed crazy to me, mainly because AC Transit is totally unreliable. That means you can't reliably depend on getting either a 1 or 1R, no matter what the schedule says. And if you can't depend on getting the faster bus, what's the point? It just becomes a random crap shoot that sometimes you get a bus that goes faster. Maybe. Or Maybe Not.

I got to the Doctor's office about 10 minutes early, which means that my trip took about 50 minutes rather than about 20.

I got to see the doctor about 25 minutes later.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night Kimberly and I travelled up to Lake Temescal to see the SUPER BLOOD MOON.

It was actually (and amusingly) my second bike ride up to Lake Temescal for the day. I dropped Kimberly off at a get together in Rockridge around 4pm, biked up to Lake Temescal, edited 3,500 words (and read one issue of Swamp Thing), biked back down, picked her up, and then up we went again.

It was Kimberly's first ride up into the hills like that, and she did great. Mind you, I know the terrain between Rockridge and Lake Temescal very well, so I carefully directed when she should get off her bike and walk, and when it was OK to ride again (to avoid biking the really steep stuff). I remember well getting up to Lake Temescal for the first time, 'lo these many years ago, and feeling like I was about to pass out, and I didn't want to repeat that experience for her.

So, we made it in 25 minutes or so with a bit of walking.

At Temescal we found a bench on the North side of the Lake and sat down to read Mad Ship for a while. It's the 7th book in our mega-Robin-Hobb read aloud that we're now over a year into. We finished up a short chapter around 7pm and then started to look for the moon.

And we looked.

And we looked.

We talked with other people, also looking for the moon.

They stumbled away in despair.

And we looked.

We wandered back and forth around the nearby grass.

We wandered up onto the high path running along the west side of the Lake, and got to an overlook which allowed us to look eastward across the lake and hills.

And we looked.

We wandered back down.

The minutes kept ticking by. Soon it was 7.40, almost an hour after moonrise.

No moon.

Eventually we decided that some combination of the very slight haze in the sky and the fact that the moon had risen already mostly eclipsed were keeping us from spotting it in the sky.

So, we decided that we'd had our adventure, and biked back down to civilization.

Ironically, the bike ride back down was at least as trying for Kimberly as the bike ride up. That's because it's almost pitch black on the roads near Lake Temescal. I'd mentioned this, but hadn't made a big deal about it, and Kimberly had probably never ridden in conditions that dark. So, she got a bit concerned about the safety of the ride, but managed it, and all was well when we emerged back in Rockridge.

Afterward, Kimberly took us out to dinner at Cactus. Now, with less screaming children and better quality food again.

Then we went to Trader Joe's to pick up "necessities" like Pita Chips and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

As we crossed the Trader Joe's parking lot, we were puzzled by a security guard holding his phone up toward the eastern sky, like an offering to the star gods.

I was bemused, but assumed he was just crazy. Because, Berkeley. Kimberly said, "Look!"

There, in the sky was a quarter or so of a moon, the other three quarters dull-red in the eclipse.

We'd found it at last.
shannon_a: (Default)
The last few weeks have been stressful. I've had some medium-term financial concerns and though Kimberly has been having improvement on some ailments, others have been moving toward crises.


The goal of the holiday weekend was to relax and destress as much as I could. (Same goal as any holiday weekend.)

Saturday I had Taco Bell for lunch and rode up through Wildcat Creek Canyon before settling for a bit at Jewel Lake.

It's currently one of my favorite rides, as there's lots of beautiful terrain, and the biking largely remains within my capability. (There are three large hills on the ride up through Wildcat Canyon, each of which ascends 100-150 feet in a pretty short distance, and I usually walk either one or two of those; the trek out of Tilden Park at the end sometimes requires some walking too.)

On my way into the park, I usually take a break at a picnic table near a water fountain that's a few miles into the park. It's a frequent stop-off for hikers, because it's the only water fountain that I know of anywhere in the south side of Wildcat Canyon. Sometimes I ignore the people who come by, and sometimes I talk with them. Saturday was a talking day. I've even grown familiar enough with the park that I was accurately able to say it was about 2 miles more to Jewel Lake. (Actual mileage on my bike computer later on was right around 2.1.)

Sadly, Jewel Lake is now even more desiccated than it was last year. You can walk all the way around the lake where the water used to be, and the water no longer goes out to the floodgates that lead down to Wildcat Creek. Hopefully we get some rain before the Lake dries up entirely or there are going to be some very unhappy turtles and birds. (The birds could probably fly or waddle up to the larger Lake Anza, but I wouldn't bet on the turtles being able to do so.)

Sunday is my typical day with Kimberly. We grabbed some Subway, ate it at our local dog park, and then walked up to Ici for some ice cream. It was purposefully relaxed, between busyness on Saturday and Monday.

Unfortunately, Kimberly got really exhausted just from walking to Ici and back, due to problems with some of her meds. We'd been talking about doing something more adventurous together on Monday, but instead I ended up going it my own ...

So Monday I ended up going to Redwood Regional Park after lunch at Wendy's. I've only been up there a couple of times, so it was a real treat, and something nice to do on a holiday.

It's a hard ride, of about 1000 feet vertical ascent, and it was a hot day. These two factors probably combined to make me more likely to make it up to the Park, because I felt I had to keep pushing to make it all the way up the hill before it got too hot. So, I did it without any stops to read or write, as I might have done otherwise.

From the top of the Shepherd Canyon Trail to the entrance to Redwood Regional Park is an ascent of about 350 feet in less than a mile. That's rough; it means that the gradient varies from 5-10% with the occasional short, level patch. I did the smart thing and mostly walked it. Nonetheless, I still collapsed and rested atop the leaf-strewn ground for several minutes when I hit 1000 feet. I made it up to the park gate at around 1.15pm, after leaving Wendy's around 11.45am.

I've previously biked around the park and biked in the park on the (bikeable) East Rim trail, but my Fitbit has encouraged me to not stay confined to my bike. So this time I locked my bike up at the parking lot (no actual bike locks, which is typical, so I used a sign) and descended down the Stream Trail.

My theory was that as soon as I got into the Redwood forests and below the rim the temperature would drop, and it did. Too hot 90s to very comfortable 70s, I'd guess The walk along the (sadly entirely dry) stream was very pleasant. I eventually took a side trail and found a nice quiet place to write for a bit. It was at the convergence of three trails, and they were frequent people looking confused and trying to figure out where they were and which path to tke. I was able to point most of them back toward the Stream Trail.

I ran out of water while writing, so decided to take the Stream Trail a bit further to what was marked as water on the map ... but it was all turned off! So I went even further to "Trail's End", and there was water there. (Whew!) It was actually a good place to go to, because the Stream Trail from the parking lot to Trail's End is bicycle-free, but beyond there, there's a bikeable road. So, some other day I could finish the Stream Trail by biking around the whole park, and then biking up the remaining bit of the Trail.

Early in the day, while ascending the hill, I was still feeling stressed from the aforementioned pressures, but somewhere in the Redwoods, they disappeared. Mostly not back yet. (Whew!)

On my way back from Trail's End, I took a side path that took my up to the East Rim trail and took that back to the parking lot. It was the most grueling part of the day other than those last 350 feet up the hill. The climb wasn't actually bad, but the Rim Trail was mostly in the (hot) sun and had notable uphills all its own. (But I would have been going up hills in the bright sun coming if I stayed on the Stream Trail too.)

I picked up Taco Bell (again) for dinner for Kimberly and me on the way home.

So, that was the Holiday weekend. Lots of junk food, but lots of great exercise out in the wild. I clocked 22+17 = 39 miles on my bike and about 50,000 steps on my Fitbit (which records some fraction of steps when I bike too, but I know I did 4 or 5 miles on foot in the redwoods).

Should be good prep for hiking with the folks on Friday when they're visiting.
shannon_a: (Default)
Wednesday was my and Kimberly's 15th Wedding anniversary. 15 years ago yesterday we were getting married at the Faculty club on the Cal campus, and 15 years ago today we were enjoying a picnic lunch with friends out at Codornices Park. I still regularly visit both locales while out biking.

Did you know that the 15th anniversary is the last one that appears on the lists in the UK and US? It's crystal. After that you're only expected to remember your anniversary every five years, which is a relief. Except the pesky Chicago Public Library made a modern gift list and it goes up yearly to 25. So maybe I have to keep remembering every anniversary until the 25th, because I lived in the Chicago area for a year or two when I was very young. CPL says that next year is the silver holloware anniversary. I don't even know what holloware is, unless they're talking about the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.

Anywho, Kimberly has had a pretty tough four months or so between bronchitis (sadly, #2 in a series) and med side effects, so we haven't really gotten out and done anything big together, at least not since our birthday celebrations in March. So I was thrilled that we were able to walk out to dinner and back.

Dinner was in Rockridge, so our total walk was about 3 miles back-and-forth, through a variety of nice areas. We enjoying looking at many attractive houses as we walked, something that we used to do with some frequency when we lived in North Berkeley (another haven of nice housing, much like Elmwood and Rockridge, the areas that we walked through last night).

Dinner was at Millennium. This is a vegan restaurant that makes some of the best food you've ever eaten despite being vegan. Kimberly and I have eaten there for anniversaries past at a couple of different locations in San Francisco (most recently, near the Civic Center, which was never the most pleasant area). However their hotel gave them the boot early in the year ... and they decided to reopen shop in the East Bay.

Millennium actually held a Kickstarter earlier this year to fund the move, and Kimberly and I were happy to be among their 650 backers, and as a result we had a free meal coming. Since the new restaurant just got off the ground last month, our anniversary seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of our free-ness. So we walked to Millennium for the first time ever and ate.

The previous time that we ate at Millennium we a bit put off by the increasing pretentiousness. About half the menu was totally indecipherable. This time, things were much better. The food was readable and the food was good as ever (very good! I really loved the potato appetizer and the chocolate desert, and Kimberly and I shared a tamale and a purse between those highlights). The new venue was also very pleasant, all done out in wood and distressed metal, and it even has a terrific patio.

And so, a nice anniversary dinner with my nice wife at an old favorite in a wonderful new venue.
shannon_a: (Default)
I'm afraid that Hawaiian Airlines has joined the dark side.

Their food has been substandard for a few years, but I gave them a pass as they're the only US airline that still does food for their peasantry. (And today's chicken & rice dinner wasn't bad.) However, I hadn't realized that last week's lack of an inflight movie was a sign of their continued descent into darkness. It became more obvious at Honolulu this afternoon when they kept coming onto the PA to exhort (extort?) people into renting tablet computers if they wanted to watch any movies during their flight. Again and again they reminded us that it'd be the only entertainment available from them. (And we could rent them for just $17.)

This new love for evil was also obvious in what K. called "The Scam Cart". I noticed it on the flight in, when they quickly wheeled around a cart of snacks for sale before they brought out the breakfast meal. In other words, they wanted to get people to give them money for food because they were hungry … before they bought the real food around. It all seemed even scummier today, on the flight home, when they also pointed out you could buy a bottle of water for just $3.50, in advance of the drink service. They're preying on peoples' needs to make them pay for what they'll be giving away shortly thereafter.

"Gift blanket sets" were also available for $10.

(On the way out of the plane we saw what were presumably free blanket sets scattered around the First Class section like so much debris.)

Our flight was an hour too long today. Usually it arrives just after 9pm, but today it arrived after 10pm.

The problem was a long air detour to avoid turbulence. Presumably the same winds that buffeted the Hawaiian islands most of the time we were there.

The public transit woes continued at the new Oakland Air Tram, which is clearly not ready for prime time.

First up, it drops from every 10 minute service to every 20 minute service at 10pm, which is ridiculous for the Oakland Airport which still has planes coming at that time. And our plane was so late, that's when we ended up traveling.

Second, when our tram finally arrived, 19.5 minutes after we got to the platform, we were told it was out of service. It sat there for a minute, a "friendly" BART person walked up to the platform, scowling, entered the train, exited it, and then left without saying a word. Then the train pulled out. Another 20 minutes went by and another train showed up. The platform messages were still saying that it was out of service, but by this time we just figured the non-communicative BART people hadn't changed the message, so the ~50-70 of us jumped in and successfully made it to BART (albeit, with standing room only).

Hopefully the kinks are gone by next year, because as of this moment, night time tram usage sucks. If Oakland Airport was trying to compete with SF Airport for convenience of public transport, they failed horribly.

We made it home successfully. The vacation rocked despite today's hijinks.

We have desperate cats, despite a daily cat sitter, and one of K's friends also kindly stopping in several times. Lucy is hitting the floor at everything, like she used to after our first few trips. Callisto is wandering the house whining and being smelly.

Apparently we were missed.
shannon_a: (Default)
My bike computer passed 10,000 miles somewhere toward the start of the year. That's 10,000 miles since I got the first of those computers, around Thanksgiving 2008. So, that's 6 years and a bit more. Still, a fair amount of riding.

I continue to try and ride 30-50 miles a week. I've been recording it in my Health app on my iPhone over the last couple of months, and it shows an average of 8.18 miles a day since November and 9.69 in the last 30 days, which is past the top of that range. At this point, I'd like to do a bit more, but that's in large part because I seem to have settled in at a weight a bit higher than I'd like. (My biking tends to have three purposes to it: raw enjoyment, mental relaxation, and physical exercise.)

In 2014, a lot of my riding was in the lowlands, with points north such as Hilltop Mall, Point Richmond, and Point Pinole being particularly popular. That seems to have somewhat impacted my ability to ride in the hills. Not that I can't, but it's harder than it was a year ago. So, it may be time for some hill riding again.

On Saturday I did a 26 mile ride out to Point Richmond, which has been pretty typical for a ride on a "free" (non-gaming) Saturday. It was absolutely glorious. Nicely warm when I was heading out, which is the best weather we've seen in a couple of months. (Sadly, that's related to our total lack of rain in January, but so it goes.) It was getting chilly out at Point Richmond by 3 or so, but still, very pleasant.

Sadly, riding through Richmond always reminds me how messed up their trails remain. I mean, it's great to have the Richmond Greenway mostly complete, which wasn't the case when I started riding again in 2008. But it's still got two big gaps in it. There's still no connection between the Richmond and Ohlone Greenways. It sounds like the sky bridge for bikes that was originally planned is straight out, but even the revamped proposal from 2010 doesn't seem to have gone anyway.

That just means you have to make a nasty crossing of San Pablo Avenue and a hike by all the day workers at the Home Depot, who crowd the sidewalks and span the spectrum from friendly to blankly indifferent. Worse is the fact that there's still a big gap in the middle of the Richmond Greenway, which requires you going several blocks out of your way across a few nasty surface streets. This ranks as one of the five biggest biking problems in the Bay Area, alongside big ticket numbers like the Bay and Richmond Bridges. Way back in 2003, this was also planned as a bridge crossing, but 12 years later ... crickets.

Much of the problem seems to be a lack of enthusiasm about Greenways in Richmond. I see it strongly when I ride both the Ohlone and Richmond Greenways like I did on Saturday. The Ohlone Greenway is clean and well-used, with the trails being constantly crowded with bicyclists, walkers, joggers, baby strollers, wheelchair pushers, and everyone else you could imagined. In contrast, the Richmond Greenway is relatively unused. I see maybe 10% as many people, per capita. And the trail is poorly unkept. On previous trips I've seen weeks or months of dog poo soiling the trail. This time I saw three or four trash bags of garbage dumped along the trail (some of the spilling all over). It's ... depressing. There's some community support for the western half of the trail, which has more space around it (making it more pleasant and more like the well-use Ohlone Greenway). There's even a new playground that just went in, but it was empty, like everything else.

I think part of the problem is Richmond's half-assed approach to this type of public facility. There's a Wildcat Creek Trail further north in Richmond (with part of it in other districts, possibly San Pablo and/or unincorporated west Richmond), and it should be a major thoroughfare. Unfortunately, the cities involved just put in some of the trail some years ago and never finished. In the east the trail deadends in a dirt field next to flood channels and in the west it's supposed to connect to the Wildcat Marsh and the various Bay Trails that run there, but instead it runs up to an underpass that has been closed for at least the last several years due to flooding. (It's all a muddy, algae mess.) Worse, whoever runs the trail has never had the good sense to at least open the western trail up to the road that's right there, so the result is another deadend (unless you hop over the short fence there, which I have at least twice ... after tossing my bike over). Oh, and there's a big gap between the western and eastern half of the trails.

Today the Wildcat Creek Trail is pretty much abandoned. Part of it is going back to nature as weeds grow through the cracked pavement. No one uses it, which is no surprise because it doesn't go anywhere. I can see the Richmond Greenway going the same way if the city doesn't finish the connections. And if they don't deal with its other problems, such as the homeless encampments that are on Baxter Creek, at the east end of the trail, and which have resulted in an increasing number of not-hostile-but-not-friendly people blocking much of the east end of the trail the last several times I've been there.

Thankfully, in lands south of Richmond, biking is getting more positive attention. Oakland is really the star (though I'd say the same of San Francisco if I was over there more).

This year, I'm looking forward to:

Chabot Avenue being repaved, making it easier to get up to Lake Temescal. I believe this actually happened two weeks ago, only about a month late. I might check it out tomorrow night.

Ashby Avenue getting a HAWK Light to make it easier to cross through some of our nearby neighborhoods. (Alcatraz really needs the same to make the whole area very navigable.) This was due to be done last fall. I actually asked the Berkeley person responsible for it for a status, but he apparently doesn't respond to plebeian citizens. However he's since updated the nine-month out-of-date web site, which I'd also told him was out of date. It now says that they expect to get state approval in spring 2015.

Tunnel Road getting better bike paths, something else that was scheduled for fall 2014, and which has been knocked back to later than spring 2015. This'll be another improvement for getting up into the Oakland Hills.

Upper Broadway getting a road diet and a two-way bike path, as yet another Oakland Hills improvement. This is scheduled to be done by fall 2015, which probably means 2016.

Telegraph Avenue getting protected and/or set-off bike lanes all the way from 19th to 40th. This still leaves nasty riding through the Temescal area, but there will then be 20 blocks of much more pleasant riding. This is supposed to start happening in March. It's near enough that every time I ride to Endgame now, I think, "That's one less time I'll have to ride these unprotected roads."

The Bay Bridge, which has been called the world's longest bike pier, finally extending its bike/pedestrian path to Yerba Buena Island (and Treasure Island). I mean, there's nothing to do out there, but I hope it'll be a pleasant place to sit out and write. I've done that a few times on the Bridge itself, but it's not as nice as the parks I prefer to visit. Maybe the islands will be. The last two promises I've seen for this were summer 2015 and Labor Day 2015, but I have zero faith in them, especially since CalTrans already failed with their original promise of end-of-the-year 2014.

Now whether we'll ever be able to bike the whole bridge is another question, and another point where I have little faith, but I'd really like to see either the Bay Bridge or the Richmond Bridge open up in my biking lifetime, so I could get across the Bay under my own power if I wanted.

Generally, Oakland's been busy; sadly, I can't say the same for Berkeley, which is dragging its feet even on the stuff already funded by the fourth bore settlement, which is all the Ashby/Tunnel related stuff. I suspect the town isn't big enough for the bike lobbying to really focus on, but it'd be nice if our "progressive" city did this sort of thing on their own.

Ah well, good stuff coming this year anyway.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yeah, it's been that kind of week. Work was overly busy and I kept not being able to get to my priorities. K. has been having some troubles.

And there were other annoyances:

We got our new washer and dryer on Thursday ... but discovered the dryer had a big dent in it. Much to my surprise, Home Depot, who contracts the delivery company, would have nothing to do with the problem. They passed it off to the manufacturer ... who happily will be delivering us yet another dryer on Thursday, hopefully sans dent. What a waste though.

We also had a guy in to measure the seven windows we're replacing on Thursday and today I got a very unhappy call telling us that they'd decided that our two big south-facing windows had enough damaged wood around them that they either weren't willing to warranty the work or else we needed to get a contractor in to reframe the windows first. I told them that neither of those options were acceptable, and that without other options we'd need to cancel the order because they couldn't fulfill the contract ... and that got our (great) sales guy working hard to come up with another solution. He came back a few hours later and let me know their in-house team actually was up to the work and that they'd give it to us at cost. So, it's a considerable addition to the cost of the windows (+30%), but we'll be replacing the framing of windows that we knew were troublesome, so I feel like it's still a win.

I also decided to withdraw from a game design project that I was working on with a friend, because I wasn't comfortable with the collaborative process, and we weren't creating a game that really made me happy. That was a bit of a bummer, but I think the right choice. Which means I'll have more time for my personal writing, I suppose.

As I said in the title, it has been two steps forward with all this ongoing stuff ... but also one step back.

But our new mailbox works great. Also the new locks on our front doors.

And I'm really looking forward to less heat loss through windows ... just in time for Spring.

Meanwhile ...

18 months after it closed down, our local Safeway on College finally reopened last week, after being rebuilt. That's about 6 months past schedule, at least some of that time lost to the NIMBY jerks of Elmwood, who did everything they could to keep the 1950s era ugly-box Safeway that used to be there. When they started raising a ruckus again after the store had been torn down, I half-hoped that Safeway gave up, to leave a rat-infested wasteland for the fine folk of Elmwood.

Anywho, I went to the new Safeway today, and it was nice enough. Our northside Safeway (which is a little further away) got rebuilt a few years ago, and the new College one is much the same ... except that it has more space and so a teeny bit more selection and a lot more space in the aisles. The latter is really nice. (The northside Safeway is a little cramped.)

On the downside, the new College Safeway seems to have no clue as to who its clientele is. For example, they had some fruits and vegetables (like carrots!) available only in an organic version. That'd be fine if their clientele was entirely Elmwood and Rockridge, who love their arugula, but in my experience 50% of the people who shop at that Safeway are students, many of them bussing down to the Safeway because it's the only reasonably priced grocery story on southside. Mind you, this Safeway also had two whole aisles of booze ... but it seemed to be for high-class drunkards, not the wine-in-a-box and gallon-jugs-of-hootch that the students seem to prefer.

They also seemed to have less sale/club prices than at the northside Safeway, but that might change after their opening few weeks.

Anywho, it looks like a probably acceptable destination for the Friday nights we stay toward the south, rather than venturing to downtown for dinner (which puts us much of the way toward the other Safeway). There's been many a Friday night, when I've cursed having to cut all the way across town to get groceries, so those days I'll be happier. As long as the sale prices don't remain less obvious.
shannon_a: (politics)
Here's a quick tip for journalists. It's incorrect to say, "Safeway employees clean up after protesters looted their store." It's correct to say, "Safeway employees clean up after criminals who coopted a protest looted their store."

They are protesters when they're marching.

They're probably protesters when they're blocking highways and locking up BART. It seems to piss people off as much as the looting, but this sort of criminality-of-inconvenience is much more a part of the country's history of civil disobedience. Mind you, it's not without consequences: Monday's blocking of the highway apparently caused one woman to give birth on the asphalt and could easily have killed two men, one who had a heart attack and another who had a stroke, neither of which could get off the highway.


They're definitely not protesters when they're smashing windows, stealing liquor and dog food, and setting fire to recycling bins. They're criminals. They're vandals, looters, and arsonists. And, there's no longer a protest. It's become a riot.

Words matter.

Here's another fun word fact. Police force is not by definition excessive. If you're breaking the law, you can expect the police to try and stop you, and if you keep breaking the law, you can expect force to be applied to make you stop. That's sort of what we pay the police to do.

I suspect most people would agree that there was excessive force in the cases that are theoretically being demonstrated against — that young black males regularly face excessive harassment and excessive force from police officers all across this nation. That's a problem. A big problem. It's worth protesting against.

However, that doesn't mean that you necessarily faced excessive force if you got tear gassed or hit by a rubber bullet or a bean bag when you were part of a mob that the police had already asked nicely to disperse because of illegal actions. Not even if you were one of the peaceful members of that unruly mob. Not even if you were a journalist who decided to embed himself in that unruly mob.

No, it means that you're paying the price that you opted to pay when you decided to engage in Civil Disobedience. Just like Thoreau opted to go to jail. Maybe it's an honorable wound that you've taken, or maybe you were a masked coward who wanted a bottle of vodka. In any case, it's what should be expected when you decided to break the law and then decided to keep doing it when asked to stop. I mean, what were the officers of the law supposed to do? Stand by and watch?

(Now hitting people with batons may be another issue, since it's even more likely than rubber bullets or beanbags to cause permanent harm [though they can too], and at that point I think you have to ask whether the police officers felt they were in real danger from the mob, and that goes back to the whole question of lethal police force that kicked things off. Some folks say tear gas may be questionable too, and I'll opt out of discussing that for lack of knowledge. Suffice to say, all non-lethal force can become lethal in some circumstances, so the question becomes which ones best combine safety with efficacy when trying to break up a law-breaking mob.)

Monday night, after my work was done and Kimberly had gotten home from her appointments, we were both feeling a bit shell-shocked after two nights of helicopters, sirens, shouting, and tear gas. We both sort of wanted to go out for dinner to feel like we weren't jailed in our house, but we were a bit reluctant because of the mob violence that had burned through Berkeley the night before. However, as I've said before I opt not to let those *((*#$#es keep me from doing what I want to do. So we went out to Smart Alec's for dinner. We got lucky; that was the night that the protesters (and they did seem to be protesters that one night, with no violence reported) blocked I-80.

On the way home we decided to visit Cream, mainly to show our support, since we knew that one of their windows had been broken during the riots on Sunday night. While there we had really a great interaction with the owner. First, he seemed extremely touched when Kimberly told him that we'd visited his store specifically to show some support for his business. Second, he told us what had happened.

As the mob had approached Cream, one of the people in the mob had leapt up to try and protect the business. Other members of the mob then began to assault him like rabid dogs — something that has happened multiple times in the protest: it resulted in a man getting sent to the hospital after being hit in the head with a hammer about two blocks from our house earlier that Sunday, and it caused a kid to lose two teeth in the riots last night. Anywho, one of the Cream employees ran out to save this kid, dragging him back into the ice cream store and locking the door. So the rioters showed their displeasure by breaking Cream's window.

OK, I'll admit, in writing that it was hard not to use the word "protester". Part of that is because of the fuzzy line between a protest group and a mob. Part of it is that there doesn't seem to be a noun for a member of a mob. Mobster? Rioter? Maybe that expresses when the fuzzy line is crossed: when a protest is no longer a group of individuals, it's become a mob.

Despite that fuzziness, I remain very, very convinced that the peaceful protesters have a responsibility to react when their protest becomes a shield for violent and destructive criminal activities.

Perhaps you can excuse them on Saturday by saying that the UCB students at the heart of the protest were too stupidly naive to realize that their protest was going to be hijacked by violent criminals. I mean, anyone who lives in this area long-term knew that was going to happen (and if anything we're shocked by the one day of protest out of four, Monday, when violence didn't occur). But UCB students are a pretty self-absorbed bunch, and I say that having once been a pretty self-absorbed UCB student, so maybe they didn't know.

But once they knew, by Sunday, the day of Berkeley's worst rioting, it became their job to figure out how to protest without shielding criminals. They should have been working with the police to figure out peaceful ways to identify criminals and get them out of their crowds. They should have been expelling those looters and vandals, not protecting them. By failing to do so, they became accomplices to those crimes.

Sucks that protesters in this area have to worry about this. Sucks that the police haven't been able to figure out a better way to separate the wheat from the chaff. But when you're the organizers of the civil disobedience, it becomes your job to either deal with this problem or else to accept that you have willfully become a part of that culture of looting, arson, vandalism, and assault.

And that crosses the line from potentially progressive civil disobedience to meaningless criminality.
shannon_a: (politics)
Last night Kimberly and I were sitting in our Living Room, relaxing, and I heard three kids walking down the street outside. Suddenly, there's a SMASH of something breaking, like a beer bottle or a car window. One of them says, "Did you do that!?" And they all broke out laughing.

And that's pretty much the state of "protest" in Berkeley these last two nights. Two nights in a row they've started the protests at around 5pm, so that they could walk the streets under the cover of night. Not something you do if you're trying to be noticed, but definitely something that you're do if you're trying to hide criminal activities. And that's exactly what's been going on.

Last night? Vandalism, arson, looting. A Trader Joe's, a Radio Shack, and a Wells Fargo got hit. Tonight? Vandalism, arson, looting, and assault. Another Radio Shack got hit, and someone got put in the hospital after he tried to protect it because one of the protestors hit him in the head with a hammer. Also, windows broken at Cream, another Wells Fargo vandalized (with crowbars!), as well as a Sprint, T-Mobile, and Mechanics Bank. JP Morgan. McDonalds. It sounds like they've run rampant destroying half of Shattuck. Burning trash strewn all about Telegraph and Shattuck. Several police cars got demolished.

The oblivious kids at Cal keep asking why they got tear gassed and dispersed during a "peaceful protest", but these "protests" have been anything but peaceful. You don't bring hammers and crowbars to peaceful protests. You don't wear black masks.

Some folks claim that despite the overall tenor of those gatherings, most of the protestors are peaceful. That may well be true, at least in Berkeley — and indeed some protestors have tried to defend some businesses, like the guy who almost got murdered with a hammer. But it's also irrelevant. As long as they're ultimately protecting the criminals, as long as they're shielding them in their crowds, they're accomplices to those crimes. They're also totally deligitimizing the movement, much as happened when Occupy descended into anarchy. If they want to have a peaceful protest, they need to actively dispel the looters, the vandals, the arsonists, and the thugs with the hammers. They need to point them out to the police, and until they do, they're just as guilty of those crimes.

Some tear gas drifted down toward our house last night. It was just barely obvious enough to slightly irritate my eyes, but I worried a bit about the cats. I also was genuinely fearful of the protestors and had to think whether to leave our porch light on or off, trying to determine which would make our house more or less of a target.

Sadly, Oakland has been putting up with this bullcrap for years, with a couple of violent protests occurring every couple of years. I'd thought the current wave of protests had ended just before Thanksgiving, but then the city suffered more earlier this week. I was depressed when I went to Downtown Oakland on Saturday and saw that even more stores had suffered damage. The saddest was "The Wine Merchant" or something like that, a brand-new store that apparently didn't ask why the rent was so low right next to Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Well, now they know I guess.

The helicopters are once more overhead. They're messing with my head.


Nov. 25th, 2014 11:21 am
shannon_a: (politics)
I live less than 5 miles from Downtown Oakland, and I'm down there once or twice a week. Last night the criminals were there instead, marching up and down Broadway. They were smashing windows and assaulting police. They were looting the Smart & Final of all its alcohol. They were just across a parking lot from my favorite game store (my favorite store) and it's merely by the grace of Broadway that it wasn't destroyed. (I hope.)

I was born in the Ferguson/Florissant area. Though I don't have the same attachment to it that my parents might, as they grew up there, I did regularly visit my grandparents there when I was young. I don't recognize the individual businesses being destroyed, but I do recognize the general look and feel of the area. It's the nostalgic wonderland of my youth, and it's burning.

There are deep problems with racial inequity in the country.

It's wrong that a black man is likely to be less educated and to earn less money than a white man. It's very wrong that he's more likely to be killed before he turns 18, that he's more likely to be stopped by the police for no reason, that he's more likely to be shot by the police.

It may even be wrong that this particular white police officer in Ferguson wasn't indicted for killing a black man. I don't know for sure, as I think there have to be very high standards for indicting an officer of the law for doing something while carrying out his duties. But maybe those standards should have been met in this case -- and it certainly sounds like DA wasn't doing his job, that he wasn't serving the rights of the victim.

But my own anger wells up when I bike down to Oakland and see yet again all the boarded-up buildings and the broken glass littering the street.

It's fashionable to blame anarchists when Oakland is burning (yet again), and maybe (probably) they're the inciters, but there are a lot of protesters who are all too willing to become arsonists and looters.

I would happily give up some of my income for the rest of my life as a part of a nation-wide program that redistributed that money to people and communities that had been economically disadvantaged. I'd happily vote for politicians who made that their platform.

But I can just barely see that when mob violence erupts like clockwork, when civil disobedience turns into an excuse to get a new pair of Nikes or a bottle of booze, when rioting is an expected response instead of a spontaneous eruption of horrible emotions.

So, pretty much the world sucks today, from every side.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday while out biking, I caught myself fantasizing about swimming in Tropical waters. Today while showering, I was imagining lush & verdant green landscapes with bright skies and a warm wind whipping through everything.

So, I'm apparently ready to go to Hawaii. It's been a rough 2014 so far, though I think we're on the verge of improvement. But a break to mark that will be nice.

Latham. My biking yesterday took me through Oakland, and this made me curious about what happened to Latham Square. You see, this was a great pedestrian plaza that they set up in Oakland last year, but then the city almost immediately ruined it by letting cars through again (1-way), totally cutting the plaza off. Predictably, the gradual use of the plaza took a big nosedive after that happened. Ever since, I've been wondering why Oakland decided to screw their pedestrians and their plans to make downtown more of a livable focal point.

It turns out that the problem is a single bureaucrat named Rachel Flynn. She unilaterally decided to cut the 6-month pilot program off at 6 weeks because of 4 complaints from local businesses. That's compared, by the by, to 4 local businesses saying good things about the Plaza and pretty much all the residents of the area loving it.

Of course local businesses throwing a fit because they think all customers have to be able to drive right up to their business, even in a downtown where that's not practical, is old news. It's the excuse that our own purist-reactionary councilman Kriss Worthington uses to kill progressive public transit projects like bus rapid transit. Sadly, Flynn is dumb enough to fall for the same whining ... or at least uses it as an excuse.

So, that's why Latham Plaza died before it ever got going. There were recently a few council meetings to revive the plan at the end of 2014 (with lots of public outcry against what Flynn did), but the current plans seem to call for reestablishing 2(!)-way traffic, which means that getting to the plaza is going to be even more dangerous and sitting there is going to be even more unpleasant. So that sounds like a way of killing the project on a longer timescale.

No livable downtown for you, Oakland. It's all about the cars!

Bike Paths. Ironically, as a bicyclist I've been really impressed by Oakland in recent years. They must have someone working full-time on bike projects for how much work is getting done. Recently the entirety of Shattuck Avenue in Oakland got marked with a bike lane which has notably improved the safety of the road for bicycles. I can really see the difference when I bike to Endgame, because the first few blocks of Shattuck that I ride to get there are in Berkeley, so I see the crazy cars going all over without the lanes to curtail their movement. Then I hit Oakland, and everything is nirvanical. So Shattuck has become my prime route into Oakland nowadays. (It used to be Telegraph, but Telegraph has more bad lights and less safe road; meanwhile I used to almost never ride Shattuck before these improvements, which started with a great reconstruction of the intersection at 51st and Shattuck, which used to be awful.)

This is just one of many bike projects that I've noticed in Oakland. Alcatraz picked up some bike lanes recently, as did my occasional back-street route past Summit Hospital. 40th got striped with a somewhat dubious bike lane straight down the middle of the street. (In other words, it's not bikes only, though perhaps it helps with over-entitled drivers like the blonde bubblehead who screamed at me for biking several weeks ago.)

So, go bicycling Oakland. At least we have advocates that don't let jumped-up pencil-pushers like Rachel Flynn ruin the city for us.

A Bike Ride & The Bay Bridge. Yesterday was a beautiful summer day (thanks global warming!), so I decided to get out and ride down by the waterfront.

I biked down to Jack London Square, then to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, then to the new pedestrian/bike path on the Bay Bridge.

I hadn't been out to the Bay Bridge since opening day, so I was bemused (and sad) to see all kinds of new fascist signs. Most of them relate to the closing of the path every night. Apparently CHP starts clearing the path 1.5 hours before closing(!!), which currently means 4pm. I think that closing the path at all sucks, and hope that this really goes away when the Yerba Buena Island path opens (like it's supposed to), but I don't have faith in our gov't, which seems continually determined to restrict what we can do. My guess is that they'll offer up some compromise plan where you can't use the path if you can't prove residence on Treasure Island, or something, because that's the sort of control that our modern gov't like to assert. Anywho, YOU WILL BE CITED if you're on the path too late. They really want you to know that.

There were also some weird signs up that tell you how long it'll take to walk to the end of the path. The first one says "3.2 miles" and "3 hours". The second says "2.2 miles" and "2 hours". Now, 1 mile per hour: that's really slow even for lazy Americans. Maybe they mean round trip? Still pretty slow.

I had a nice ride out on the bridge. There weren't nearly as many people to dodge as on opening day, but it was still clearly quite well used. More pedestrians than bicyclists at this point. And, it was still a slightly grueling ride, fighting the slope and wind all the way to the end of the bridge.

There's also still lots of construction going on, so part of the path running up to the bridge goes on cruddy old streets and you still ascend to the bridge on a slightly rickety wooden ramp. This sadly means that the Bay Bridge Gateway Park is still far off, which is a darned shame. I love the SF-look I've seen for it in a conceptual drawing, which includes an elevated bike path (apparently already funded!) that makes me think of jet cars flying through the sky.

Meanwhile, a bit closer in, the current signs say that the Yerba Buena Island path is supposed to open in Summer 2015. This is an updated number after the people tearing down the old bridge said, 6 months after they started, that the project was running 6 months behind.

So, good going keeping those signs updated, I guess. Even if that's all you got done in six months.

shannon_a: (Default)
A generation ago, the Bay Area was hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that literally changed the face of the Bay Area. Looking back I'm shocked to read that only 63 people were killed, because the collapse of the Cypress Structure in Oakland seemed much more traumatic at the time (let alone all the damage in the marshier parts of SF). Among other things, one section of the Bay Bridge's eastern span collapsed. Now, 23 years and 10 and a half months later, that deathtrap of a bridge — which was declared seismically unsafe following the earthquake — has been replaced. The new bridge went $4.8 billion dollars over budget. Ah, how the wheels of government spin in the modern day!

The new bridge is beautiful, and I think that's important for the morale of the community. The old one looked like a badly aged erector set or like a railroad bridge (which it was, in part), while the new one is beautifully open and has a marvelously iconic tower that'll stand out on the Bay once the old bridge is (finally) gone. Just as notably, the new bridge has bike and pedestrian lanes!

I was going to wait a few weeks, but I ultimately decided to bike out on the bridge yesterday, before dinner. Only about 6 hours after the pathways opened. I'm glad I did, because it felt like I was part of a historic moment in the Bay Area, as we finally replaced the last debris of Loma Prieta with something new ... and for the first time in the 21st century put our mark on this place we call home.

There are apparently two entrances to the new pathways, one from Emeryville and one from West Oakland. Not wanting to die, I opted for the Emeryville passage. (It's actually the closer one to me house.) It heads westward from the Ikea on Shellmound. The entryways are quite well constructed, because there's one from either side of the street, so you don't have to cross busy Shellmound just to get out to the bridge. (Sadly, there's no exit to the nearby Target parking lot, which would have been grand, because it would have given bicyclists a way to get around the bizarre overpass between Shellmound and 40th.)

The paths runs westward under the tangle of freeways where 580, 80, and a major frontage road meet, but since that's all overhead, it's relatively quiet and restful. The path is top grade and there's good lighting along much of it (though the Bridge walkways are only going to be open during daylight for a few years).There's eventually a turnout for West Oakland (which I *think* will actually let you get around the worst drug neighborhoods, and straight to the harbor). As you approach the bridge itself, the roadway deteriorates, I think because you're now on temporary pathways that'll be in place until the old bridge is blown up. Similarly, the actual ramp up onto the bridge is a wooden affair that doesn't feel that rickety ... but is clearly temporary.

The beauty of the bridge itself is somewhat offset by its ugly twin, sitting there to its left and obscuring a lot of the sight lines. But you could see Treasure Island and (sometimes) San Francisco ahead, as well as the glorious new central tower for the Bridge. The pathways are wide. The sky is even wider, and you can see it all, thanks to the open-faced nature of the new bridge. It was a great ride. My only complaint was the wind, which was horrendous from when I got into Emeryville and never let up. It made the ride actually take some work ... though not necessarily hard work, as my riding on hills has helped with wind too.

Currently, the pathway stops just past the tower, well out from Yerba Buena Island. Last night a group of bored looking policemen guarded the gate leading onward, to ensure that none would pass. A group of us stood around taking pictures and gawking at the scenery, out in the middle of the Bay.

The ride back was easy, and offered a surprise: the view of the East Bay when you're coming back from Yerba Buena is actually the most beautiful view of the whole ride.

Overall, an enjoyable ride. It took me about 2 hours to get from home, to the furthest edge of the bridge possible, to a Subway sandwich store, and then back to home. It was around 18 miles.

Now let's get that pathway to the Island finished (estimated time: 2-3 years, though I wonder how much thought has been putting into getting across Highway 80 once you're on Yerba Buena Island, as you'll be on the wrong side to get to anything), and let's get working on extending it to San Francisco (estimated time: maybe we'll start thinking about). I'd like to ride there before I'm too old to do so, but don't have any great faith I'll get to.
shannon_a: (Default)
A busy but enjoyable weekend.

SAFEWAY BUMMER. The weekend actually started off a bit annoyingly, with my Friday night grocery shopping. I went to the Safeway on College and found it in partial chaos. The shelves were maybe 60% full, with much of their breadth gone. The worse problem was that the store had apparently let go about half of their checking staff, so long lines fouled up the entire front of the store, making it hard to walk from aisle to aisle (and we won't even speak of how long I had to wait in line at the end). This is all because they're closing the store on July 9th, for demolishing, then rebuilding ... I just hadn't expected them to let the store go to hell two weeks early. Suffice to say, that's my last trip to the store until next Summer, when there's a newer and nicer store ready to go ... if the Rockridge NIMBYs didn't do too much damage to the project. (And, sadly, its closure kills our closest grocery store. From here on out I'll be travelling 2+ miles to the north Berkeley Safeway or further to a Target.)

GREAT RIDES. Things started to perk up on Saturday, when I essentially planned to reverse my great ride from last weekend by going up the Ohlone Greenway, then up Wildcat Canyon, then through Tilden Park and out. It was pretty exhausting because it was hot out (even though I started at 9.30), but it was a fun ride, at least in the shade. I also went up the backside of Tilden which I wasn't planning to beforehand and got up to Inspiration Point. I need to get back there some time to ride the paved path that runs the east side of the park ... but I didn't on Saturday, because I was entirely tired out. (And I'm still sore today, two days later!) It was all I could do to circle around the park to get out, then head down the hills.

SUPREME COURT UPPER. I was so thrilled to hear the marriage equality decisions come forth from the Supreme Court on Thursday. It was entirely historic, something that we're going to remember like the Berlin Wall coming down. I was sad we couldn't make it to Pride on Sunday afterward, which I hear was craaaaaa-zeeeee, but there was no way Kimberly was up to it. Still, thrilling news.

CHEVYS! Kimberly and I haven't been getting out and doing much lately due to her ongoing sickness, but on Sunday she offered to take us out to Chevy's for dinner. She's not up to biking, so we had to bus down, but we just read lots of our current book while waiting for the buses (Trumps of DOOOOOM by the late, great Zelazny). The dinner was terrific; she was right, it was nice to get out and do something together. We've talked about going out to Baja Fresh in Lafayette for the Fourth ... if BART is actually running.

BART! I am entirely grateful for labor unions. They got the whole country/world great things like paid vacation and sick leave and they still remain extremely important in many industries. I wish that computer programmers were smart enough to form more unions, as they get terribly taken advantage of at most computer companies (not even speaking of sweat houses like EA). With that said, I don't think the BART unions realize how quickly they're pissing away any public good will they have (and I don't think they have a lot). I personally can't feel a lot of sympathy for people with high school educations that are earning $60-80k a year, with a 90%(!!!) load of benefits, including a fully funded pension — at least not in the current crappy economic climate. Not even when an old friend and co-worker is probably on the picket line. Especially not when they threaten strikes every three years or so. (I was amazed to see the last strike was in 1997; I was sure it was more recent due to the frequent threats.) I was unsurprised to see SFGate's comments entirely filled with bile about the union and the strike; I was more surprised to see about 50% of commentators on super liberal Dailykos feeling about the same as me. If the strike is still going on for July 4th and people miss their cookouts, baseball games, and fireworks (and Baja Fresh trips) as a result ... the public is going to be begging for BART to replace the strikers. In the super liberal Bay Area.

DESIGNERS & DRAGONS. Work on this book continues slowly, but I got my second new '00s article done this weekend, on John Wick Presents. It just needs some editing. I'm determined to figure out how to speed up those newer articles, but the podcasts that all the info is embedded in continue to slow me down ...
shannon_a: (Default)
AUCTION. Today was the annual Board Game auction at EndGame. I *always* use it as an excuse to get unused games out of my house, but this year I found myself a bit challenged, as my percentage of great games that I want to keep has crept up year-by-year, thanks to the annual Endgame filter. So, I set myself a target of getting 20 games out of the house this year, and made that. I'll pick up a little bit of cash for selling those off the next time I make it to Endgame.

But today I went to see if I wanted to *buy* any games. I've been doing this for the last 4 years or so, and I've generally stayed for a couple of hours, and bought somewhere between 0-2 games. Which was what I did today. I picked up Fast Flowing Forest Fellers by Friedemann Friese (which I gave an 8/10 on BGG when I played it three and a half years ago) and Rune Age (which will give me something to write about for both deckbuilding and cooperative design stuff that I'm working on).

I was quite pleased, because those were both "A" list games for me -- not just stuff that I bought because it was cheap. (Though definitely cheap: $13 for the still shrink wrapped FFFF and $11 for the Rune Age; yes, you should go to the board game auction at Endgame if you're in the Bay Area.) I left around 12.30. While there (mostly before the auction) I also got to spend some enjoyable time talking to Aaron, Andrew, Bob, Eric, and other Endgame folks -- which is the other joy of the auction.

BIKING. It's really not going to surprise you that after Endgame (and lunch) I headed out and did some biking. I've long wanted to head up into the hills from downtown Oakland, since I've done the reverse a few times. Today I did. First I circled around Lake Merritt and it was *so* nice to see that you can now traverse the south side of the Lake without having to go out to the streets. I think that's been a mess for the 10 years or so I've been regularly visiting downtown Oakland. (Sadly, the paths down to the estuary aren't open yet, though they looked done; I'll have to visit that another time.) After that I took a road called Trestle Glen up into the hills.

I was pretty amazed that the second I hit Trestle Glen, the houses got really nice. (And the housing prices seem to reflect that.) Very nice houses, nice neighborhoods, lots of foliage. The entire street is a long incline too, though not too terribly steep. I was getting tired as I rode, but not horribly so. Then I entered Piedmont, and suddenly the road turned to very steep. I alternatively walked and rode various bits from there on up. (I've learned through my hill riding that walking stuff that feels overly tiring can keep me from exhausting myself.)

Exiting Piedmont, I entered what's apparently called the Oakmore area of Oakland, looming over the Dimond Canyon. My new road up there was Leimert (after crossing the historic Leimert Bridge). This was quite attractive too -- and I got to see some really nice views of the Bay, the further I got up. They were pretty neat views too, because they framed Oakland's downtown right in front of San Francisco's downtown, a juxtaposition that I don't usually see.

Eventually I made it toward the Montclair area and headed up to Shepherd Canyon. I didn't ride the whole trail, but I did ride far enough to find a bench, where I read and ate dark chocolate. It was nicely shaded and there were wonderful breezes. Very pleasant! I eventually finished Swamp Thing vol. 2 and that it was back home for R&R for the rest of the day.

WRITING. Well, mostly R&R, as I'm now back to work on _Designers & Dragons_ (and have a few more writing projects, besides). Back on Tuesday I started on the various administrative tasks I'd accrued for _Designers & Dragons_: getting illustrations (covers) in order, making some tweaks to articles based on recent events, etc. I'll continue with this for several more days, then next weekend or so get started on some real writing for volume 4.
shannon_a: (Default)

SATURDAY BIKING. We had "king tides" from Wednesday through Friday, when the ties are at the highest point for the year due to a particular confluence of conditions. Those were of course work days, but I managed to get down to the Bay to see them on Saturday, when the tides were still within half-a-foot of their height. Generally, the Bay looked very full, as did the Aquatic Park (which has connections to the Bay). Nothing spectacular other than that, but it was fun to see. I rode out to the Berkeley Pedestridan Bridge, then along the Bay Trail out to the Emeryville Marina. I turned around at a bit past 12.15 pm, which was the high tide. I was only out for a couple of hours, even including lunch, which was a nice way to get some exercise & relaxation without killing the whole day. (Though I then went home and napped for part of the remaining afternoon, so ...) I did a total of 15 miles riding on Saturday, but that included groceries later in the day.

SUNDAY BIKING. On Sunday, Kimberly was having lunch out, so I decided to pack myself a lunch and bring it up to Lake Temescal. I took the route straight up Tunnel Road, which I'd only tried once before in the rain, and was pleased to find that it was still a reasonable way to get up the hill. However, on my way to Temescal I came across the "Gateway Emergency Exhibit Center", which is just above the highway. It's a little bit of public land with a big deck on it which gives a beautiful view of the Bay. It was apparently erected in 2003 in memory of the 1991 Berkeley Hills fire. I couldn't resist, and so I had lunch there, overlooking the whole Bay. Beautiful!

While I was eating lunch, I saw a constant flow of bicyclists going up the smaller Tunnel Road where it diverges from what had been route 13. Though it looked like a bit of a hill, I decided to investigate before heading out to Temescal. I'm glad I did! Tunnel Road past 13 turns out to be a beautiful small & quiet road that constantly pushes uphill but at a very acceptable grade thanks to switchback after switchback. It was long, but totally rideable, and everytime I hit the eastern end of a switchback I got a beautiful view of the Bay — growing ever more distant (and more gray) as I climbed the hill. Eventually I slipped over the Caldecott Tunnel and Tunnel turned into Skyline Blvd. Woot!

From there, the ride was pretty level, and really beautiful. Though by now everything had gotten really gray and slightly misty. I thought I'd climbed into the clouds, but later learned that the clouds had instead climbed over the East Bay. Before long I came upon one of the entrances to the Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve — which is to say one of the parks that run along the ridges of the East Bay Hills. I eagerly biked in. I vaguely considered riding the Skyline Trail out toward Tilden, but discovered it was really muddy. So, best not. I'd already decided that I wanted to return on a nicer summer day to really enjoy the view on the way up, so it was no great loss not doing that trail then. I did ride one of the paved paths, out to the base of "Round Top", which looked back on very verdant valleys back in the foothills.  (Looking at maps now, it seems that the bike trail continued from where I was, but apparently on dirt roads, which would have been muddy too.)

I intended to ride from there out to the Shepherd Canyon Trail, but got turned around and instead took Snake Road down to Montclair. From there it was a pretty normative ride back home ... if continuing to be a little misty.

But, what a ride! One of my favorites. Ascended to somewhere around 1400 feet in Sibley. Rode 15 miles, bringing the weekend total to 30. And I was home by 2pm again. (And I napped again! Sigh.)

ANNOYING BUILDERS & STRANGE NEIGHBORS. So this summer we lost our nice old lady neighbor in the house behind us. The house was apparently purchased by some executive who likes to scream on his cell phone in the backyard and his wife, who also likes to scream on her cell phone in the back yard. (The whole neighborhood could transcribe their conversations if they wanted.) They apparently have a small child who sobs a lot and now have a baby who wails a lot. After they bought the house, builders started working on the house, reroofing at 8am every morning.

We were often awoken and thus annoyed, but reroofing is just a fact of life in buying a house, so we grinned and bore it. Then a week and a half later or so they started reshingling all the sides of the house ... and despite having 6-12 people there every day they were doing it at a glacial rate. I'd go by and they'd be a couple of feet further along the next day. And then, to make things even weirder, all the work stopped with maybe 50% of the shingling done. A couple of times a week we'd hear sobbing, wailing, or cell phone screaming, but the rest of the time the house seemed empty. And the shingling sat like that for months. Many months.

Kimberly and I are storytellers, so we came up with our theory: they were house flippers and had run out of money.

Then last Thursday or so, the damned construction started up again. Shingling or what, I'm not sure. They seem to like to start at ungodly o'clock, then often stop at 9 or 10. What the hell is up with that!? Storyteller me says that they're now giving cut rates to workers before their regular job, but in any case it's really annoying. Especially if they're doing that crap next week, the one week a year that I take off and stay home to relax. And, you know, sleep in. We shall see.

CHRISTMAS TIME. Sunday I finished my own Christmas shopping with a few final items, then tonight Kimberly and I went to the pet store to overindulge in presents for Lucy. According to my math, a cat has about a 1 in 9 chance of liking a present that you get, which worked out when we had 3 cats and 3 presents (total), but now ... I'm figuring the odds are not as good. Well, one of the presents we got Lucy was a new cat dancer that will stick to the wall (for, I suspect, a very brief time). She'll definitely like that.

And we got her a h-a-r-n-e-s-s, because Kimberly and I would love to take her for walks. Not sure that's actually going to happen though.

Now I'm happy as the Christmas present shopping is done!

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